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Thursday, 2 April 2015



I first watched this film a while back, and it, um, it was - yeah, that was a film. Um. I had to watch it again yesterday to refresh my memory.

Epic is a 2013 action film about a girl named MK, who after being magically shrunk and accelerated in time, ends up joining a young Leafman Warrior, Nod, as he attempts to defend the pod that contains the new queen of the forest, while evil creatures called Boggans, under the leadership of the moderately diabolical Mandrake, attempt to corrupt it.

(It is, in fact, an adaptation of a book, The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce, and while I've never read it, I hear that the book is a very charming and well-written children's story that a lot of people think of very fondly, which makes everything I'm about to say about the film very vexing indeed.)

Ah, thank you, I was afraid I would have to identify the villain through their actions,
without a thousand anvil-esque visual cues.

Very little about this film has stuck in my memory. That's a little strange, given that I watched it for the second bloody time all of twelve hours ago, and it's not strange in a good way. It's bad strange. It's 'this film was so bland and by the numbers that despite knowing I had to write a review of it, my brain didn't bother to retain any information about it' strange.

In fact, I think it's probably fair to say that this film was built from a checklist of cliches. 

Girl moves to live with her workaholic father, spends much time at the beginning lamenting about how she misses her friends and the vibrancy of the city, but by the end of the film is totally fine with it despite the fact that, sure, her relationship with her father may have improved, but those problems of isolation are still there? Check.

Boy has issues with a father or father figure, who feels he isn't fulfilling his potential and/or is reckless, but learns the value of working with others by the end of the film? Check.

Animal sidekick whose only jokes are about how they are x animal? Check.

Villains are overtly evil creatures of death and decay, live in a barren wasteland, and frequently talk about how evil they are? Check.

Romance forms surprisingly quickly in a matter of hours or days? Check, and moreover the film tries to skirt over the fact that by the end, MK is about two-hundred times Nod's size, making any relationship difficult at best.

I mean, I don't want to say their relationship is doomed, but unless one of them grows
or one of them shrinks, yeah, god, it's doomed.

Even on a smaller scale, the film lives off the cliches left behind by other films, transitioning smoothly from scenes that wouldn't be out of place in Star Wars to ones that would fit comfortably into The Hobbit, and managing to utilise all of them with an abiding sense of utter insincerity. This really is plotting at its absolute worst, a cynical and heartless attempt to appeal to as many people as possible.

(A few critics have accused it of having an 'eco-battle theme', ala FernGully. I'd love to rail at it for that, but I don't think it's true. The villains of this film aren't The Most Dangerous Animal Of All, Man or pollution or anything like that: Instead, while they're pretty much two-dimensional wrong'uns with no motivation other than 'murder is cool', the Boggans are depicted as just as magical and un-technological as the Leafmen, with no link to any of the themes of pollution or deforestation for fuel that you would see in an eco-battle film. Humans, meanwhile, are always unremittingly good in Epic. 

It's very easy to critique this film for the crimes of films that it's drawing - heavily from, but in this case the criticism is misplaced.) 

There's a good voice cast, including the likes of Beyonce Knowles and Aziz Ansari in minor roles, along with Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell and Jason Sudeikis in the main roles, and I like most of those people, but none of them, none of them, are bringing their A-games. Every single line throughout this film sounds like it was phoned in by somebody who just couldn't be bothered. I don't even know how that's possible. I don't know how you get that calibre of voice cast and then apparently aggressively demotivate them into doing terrible line reads. Were the directors standing at the edge of the recording booths hollering 'No, no, too much emotion! Read it like you're at Burger King and they've taken slightly too long with your order!' 

Queen Tara, played by Beyonce, who might be the best performance of the cast.
The character dies very early on.

The very best thing I can say about this film is that it's pretty. Not gorgeous, not strikingly beautiful - this isn't Legend of Sanctuary, which was a total trainwreck in terms of plotting, but which was absolutely stunning, this is just pretty. Very nice to look at, but nothing special or unique - and some of that owes to the fact that while a lot of money and time has clearly been poured into the animation, it's full of aesthetics and design styles that we've seen before.

Harking back to Legend of Sanctuary again, that isn't just good-looking, it's unique. It looks like nothing else on the market. Epic looks like every 'ooooh, isn't nature wonderful' film for the past twenty years. Every single one.

As of writing, no sequel has been confirmed, and it looks like none will ever be confirmed, and while that pleases me, I'm definitely surprised: The film was a modest box office success, easily making back its budget, and usually studios will leap onto those for at least direct-to-video sequels. I'm glad it hasn't, though. 

I'd say that the fact that this is an adaptation makes this worse, but Joyce is apparently the main writer for this adaptation, so all I can say is maybe stick to books. 


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